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Archaeology Magazine

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New Thoughts on Maya Human Sacrifice

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ATLANTA, GEORGIA—According to a report in Science News, many of the nearly 10,000 human bones, bone fragments, and teeth discovered in Belize’s Midnight Terror Cave are thought to be the remains of children. Bioarchaeologist Michael Prout of California State University, Northridge, said at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists that the ancient Maya may have considered cave areas near water to be sacred spaces, suggesting that the children might have been sacrificed to Chaac—a rain, water, and lighting god. Radiocarbon dating of the remains suggests that bodies were deposited in the cave over a 1,500-year period, beginning some 3,000 years ago. It had been thought that human sacrifices in the region were largely limited to adults, but another site of possible large-scale child-sacrifice by the Maya has been found in an underground cave at Chichén Itzá. “Taken together, however, finds at Chichén Itzá and Midnight Terror Cave suggest that about half of all Maya sacrificial victims were children,” Prout said. To read more about the ancient Maya, go to "Tomb of the Vulture Lord."

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